The Prisoner’s Wife: Incarcerated Parents

The Prisoner’s Wife: Incarcerated Parents

Abstract My papers purpose is to inform the reader of the ever increasing number of U. S children with incarcerated parents. According to Department of Justice data African American children are nine time more likely than white children to have incarcerated parents, A number double that of what was reported in 1991 Most children of incarcerated parents live in poverty before, during and after their paren’t incarceration( Johnston 1995). The social consequences of not meeting the need of these children and their non incarcerated parent will come to the attention of social workers in array of fields of practice.

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This includes child welfare, mental health and child development, crimminal justice , schools and the juvenile justice system. Included in this paper is current litature on the social problem associated with rising numbers of incarcerated parents. Information on programs that could assist this vulnerable population as well as a review of the book The Prisoner’s Wife : A Memoir which discusses the problem from a wife’s point of view. The Prisoner’s Wife: A Memoir is a love story set in a brutal prison in upstate New York.

Where a lifer Rashad meets Asha at a poetry reading. After the encounter they continued to interact due to Asha volunteer work at the prison. Where she was treated differently because she was not a family member or girlfriend. A change occured in Asha life when she sacrifed companionship and married Rashad. Though she is not a convicted felon but, a hard working author and poet the book tells her story of injustice and humiliation due to her connection to a convicted felon. Whom she later conceives a child with during one of their many conjucal visits.

The book goes in depth of the problems associated with her descion to marry and have a child by a man who will spend the rest of his life in the prison system. In the book she discusses the three primary ways to be present in a prison relationship; visits, phone calls and letters. Visits are monitored and limited and often difficult to access due to transportation issues and unwillingness of caregivers to facilitate visits, visiting rooms that are inhospitable to children ( Bloom 1995). Maintaining contact through phone alls and letters is more common but, these forms of communication are limited by a family’s ability to afford expensive collect calls. Without visits from family members the relationships are doomed to fail. The author of the book made a choice to marry and conceive a child with a incarcerated man however, the child and many other children have no choice in who their parents are. In recent years the number of incarcerated parents have doubled. What happens to these children who’s mothers are left solely responsible while the fathers are off serving a “bid” in prison.

Growing concern in recent years over the health and well being of children of incarcerated parents has increased research. This research focuses on the well being and the development , living situations and the resources needed to assist these families. In addition, there are concerns related to what happens upon re- entry when the incarcerated parent returns to the community and to his family. Also the increased rates of women incarcerated raise concerns for the need of these children. The author percieved family model was altered by her choice to marry a felon.

While reading the book you view the change in the author ideological view points on impact of imprionment on families. Further the book advocates for sentencing reforms and explains her view of racism in the sentencing laws. The author briefly discusses the short- long term effects of the children affected by incarceration and, the unique difficulties these children will face. The author attempts to glide over the emotional health and well being and the extent to which the child will be affected by parental incarceration.

Most children with incarcerated parents experiance a broad range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, anger, sadness,loneliness, and guilt (The Osborne Association 1993). They may also act out inapproperiately, become disruptive in the classroom or engage in other anti sociol behaviors. Often, their academic performance deteriorates and they develop other school related difficulties. The emotional and behavioral difficulties have been linked to a variety of factors, including parent child seperation and social stigma which the author fails to discuss.

The book did not contributed to my understanding of the scope of the problem of parental incarceration and the effects on the children. However reviewing existing literature, though scarce re interated my hypothesis that children of incarcerated parents experience a variety of negative consequences. Nature of the parents, crime, length of sentence, availability of family support or all important factors to be considered affecting these children.

Children of incarcerated parents are a vulnerable group in August 2000 The Bureau of Justice Statistics analyzed a 1997 survey of inmates in State and Federal Corre ctional Facilities to examine parenting stats of prisoners. The survey showed that parents make up a large segment of the prison population and these incarcerations affect the entire family are there links between crime, poverty, social inequalities. How as a society can we assist these families ,can parenting programs in prison be beneficial. What is the impact to the children of incarcerated parents? According to K.

M Miller who wrote the article The impact of parental incarceration: an emerging need for effective interventions, the increasing number of children with incarcerated parents constitutes one of the largest at risk populations in the U. S. It is difficult to quantify the long or short term effects of parental incarceration however, the litature indicates that this population is negatively affected by the shifts in the family structure and is vulnerable to economic stress and interpersonal issues. The book The Prisoners Wife sparingly re interated the current scholarly litature and studies.

How can you co parent through barbed wire. When a child is subjected to body searches and interrogations in order to visit a parent what psychological trauma will that child suffer? The author husband was sentenced to life due to mandatory sentencing policies. With the number of African American’s being sentenced in non violent drug offenses to mandatory sentences of life what is the implication of these policies on the black family? Mandatory drug sentencing laws were created by Congress or state legislature.

They are policy’s mandating a specific minimum punishment for a given violation or law. African American males are disproportionately affected by mandatory sentencing policies. As Social Workers we all relize the negative impact parental incarceration can have on children. By addressing the policy on mandatory sentencing , implementing prison parenting programs, support groups,visitation assistance and mentoring for the children and families affected by parental incarceration we can change these childrens futures. The Prisoner’s Wife is a love story, which the final chapter is yet to be written.


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